I wrote this as the conclusion to my book, Stay of Execution:
How to Negotiate
With God When You Have Under Six Months to Live.
It's here: http://bit.ly/StayOfExecution.
You may not have read the book. If you didn't, you missed this.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Your heirs will be able to get help from church leaders who will keep them from being guilt-manipulated by a funeral director. No, you don't need the best casket. Yes, cremation is cheaper than embalming. No, the funeral service doesn't have to be held at the funeral home. The church is just fine. Better, in fact. Do your heirs even need a funeral home? Why? There are alternatives to funeral homes. Use Google to see what is available locally. Ask at a local hospice. In short, don't pay retail.
Once there is no body to handle, funeral prices drop dramatically. As for me, cremation is fine. We cremated my son's remains. That is good enough for me. No casket. "Save a tree!" When it comes to saving money on funerals, I'm a green. But if you want a casket, start shopping online now. Don't let your grief-stricken spouse pay retail to a funeral home. Put this in your written instructions for your funeral. Sign it. Do this today. You don't have time for procrastination.
As a Protestant, let me recommend a low-cost Trappist casket. But don't order it just yet. Wait for some word on your stay of execution offer.
If you have not read Jessica Mitford's book, The American Way of Death Revisited, it's time. I read the first edition over 50 years ago. It was recommended to me by a Canadian former embalmer, who later became a pastor. I took it to heart. You should, too. So should your spouse. Buy a used copy on Amazon. It will save your heirs thousands of dollars and a lot of needless grief. Order it here: http://bit.ly/MitfordAWOD.
Give your heirs guidance on what you want for your funeral. Be specific. Put this in writing. You can get good advice here: http://www.funeral-help.com.
There is another short book to read: The Affordable Funeral: Going in Style, Not in Debt. It will save your heirs thousands of dollars, which can be put to far better uses than going into the bank account of a funeral home.
Do not pay for embalming unless the state requires it, and don't take the word of a funeral home agent in this matter. Have a closed-casket funeral.
Search online for a local Memorial Society or a chapter of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Find out how inexpensive such services are before you put in writing what you really, truly want... for them, not you. Don't let your family negotiate at the last minute. They will lose. They are up against professionals. Get the arrangements settled now. Put them in writing. Sign them. Have a witness sign them.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why do I need a graveside service? (It might rain.)
Why should anyone have to come anywhere the evening before?
Why have a funeral service in a funeral home?
Why shouldn't I write my own obituary -- no sentimental fluff?
Why do I need a fancy headstone?
How small should my bronze plaque be (larger is more expensive)?
Does this plaque need an expensive base?
Why do I need a mausoleum (except as a real estate investment)?
Why isn't cremation good enough?
Why shouldn't I buy a nice cigar humidifier for $80?
Why should my heirs pay $900 for exactly the same box?
Why should they pay for a soloist to sing?
How many flowers do I need?
What are the cheapest flowers?
Why not have my body transferred to the county morgue?
Why pay for my remains to be sent to the church/chapel?
Why not have my body put in the casket at the morgue?
Why pay for more than two trips: (1) funeral service and (2) grave?
Why does it need to be at the funeral service, anyway?
What's wrong with an empty casket at the service?
Why not have a friend take it in his pickup to the morgue after the service?
Why not cut shipping fees to one trip: morgue to grave?
Will your friend drive your body in the casket to the grave? Cheap?
Are you a veteran? Have you joined the Veteran's Cremation and Burial Society? There are funeral homes that offer 40% discounts to members.
Do you have a funeral shopping agent to run interference for you? Any trusted friend can do this. Let him know that his job is to negotiate whenever a service is inescapable -- and few are.
Read my article on funerals. I wrote it in 1978. It's an old PDF, but it's still readable: //www.garynorth.com/Funerals.pdf
Your funeral should not involve any debt, nor any regrets when the bills are submitted. Your heirs should not entertain this thought: "What were we thinking of?"
Here is my recommendation: "Have your heirs cry at your memorial service, not at the presentation of the bill."
You must take this responsibility now. You owe this to your heirs.
If your wife is soon to be a widow, the two of you should read this book together:
The Widow's Handbook, by Charlotte Foehner. You can buy a used copy on Amazon, cheap.
Talk through the issues she raises.
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